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Stair Climbing Benefits And Tips

By Saksham Bhatia +2 more

Regular physical activity is vital for maintaining your fitness and health, apart from helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular conditions in the future. There are plenty of workout routines that strengthen muscles and build stamina (such as walking, running, callisthenics, etc). But did you know that simply taking the stairs can burn more calories than walking or even jogging?


Climbing the stairs can be something you do as part of your daily routine or you may use it as an exercise tool. The best part is that you don’t need to buy any expensive gym equipment, just find some stairs and get to work! Here’s why you should add stair climbing to your workout plan. 

Walking vs stair climbing

Walking has long been suggested for most people who need to get their daily dose of physical activity – it is simple, easy to do and it works. If you have problems sticking to a weight loss program, maintaining 20 minutes of brisk walking daily can be much easier for you. 

Stair climbing is also recommended since it burns much more calories than even a brisk walk. However, although most people have access to stairs, stair climbing is not as popular. A few reasons why stair climbing isn’t as popular as walking for weight loss:

  • Stair climbing can be quite intensive, most beginners may find it too hard to start.
  • Stair climbing may cause knee joint pain if it is not performed correctly.
  • Stair climbing may not be possible for obese people to start.

Still, if you can do it regularly, stair climbing can provide even more benefits than walking. Let’s look into it.

Stair climbing health benefits

Most health organisations recommend between 20-30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity daily. Even the World Health Organisation recommends 150 minutes of the same weekly. Of course, those who wish to lose weight may need to opt for slightly more intensive types of exercises. Stair climbing may be perfect in these cases.

  • More calories burnt – 10 steps climbed can burn 1 calorie, this is much higher than slow jogging. Even climbing down the stairs burns about 1 calorie for 20 steps. The vertical motion challenges your muscles to resist gravity, balance and stabilize. This takes more work than walking down a straight path.
  • Vigorous activity – Unlike walking which may be considered a mild activity, climbing the stairs can be rigorous depending on your speed. These types of exercises have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long term. 
  • More muscles involved – In addition to using lower-body muscles like calves, hamstrings and gluteus maximus, stair climbing also activates your core and lower-back muscles. Moreover, when you pump your arms while climbing, it engages your upper body as well. Hence, stair climbing has the potential to be a full-body workout, unlike walking.
  • Muscle strength – Working against gravity for each step climbed can do wonders to strengthen and tone your leg muscles. Strengthening the leg muscles can also activate the abs and back muscles which can support your entire musculoskeletal system. Not only can this make you stronger, but it can burn more calories, reduce blood sugar and may be involved in arthritis pain management. 
  • May reduce stroke risk – One study found that men who climbed up at least 20 flights of steps in a week had a lower risk of developing stroke. This may be another long term benefit of adding stair climbing to a sedentary lifestyle. 
  • Lung function – Strenuous activities like climbing the stairs forces your body to get into a good rhythm of breathing deeply. Perform this exercise enough regularly and you can increase the healthy functioning of your lungs. 

Did you know, that for every minute you take the stairs, you burn 8 – 11kcal, which is high compared to other moderate-level physical activities? So, next time you are tempted to stand infront of the line for the lift, go for the stairs instead and get you steps in as well!

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Stair climbing – Tips and safety 

Taking the stairs everywhere may not always be possible. If you work on the 20th floor of an office building, you may not have the stamina nor the time to get to the top (not to mention you’ll be sweaty when you show up to work). Here are some key things to keep in mind for a safe and effective stair workout:

  • Wear comfortable, fitting shoes with proper support and cushion inside. 
  • Use non-slippery outer soles to avoid the risk of falling. 
  • Always warm-up before you start climbing. 
  • Choose stairs that are well built and have proper lighting.
  • Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and upright, without arching your back while climbing. 
  • Try to climb as quietly as you can, loud noises while climbing indicates that you are putting a lot of strain on your knees and other joints.
  • Do not try to climb too fast, use a slow but steady pace and take rests whenever required.
  • Don’t try to skip steps while climbing. 
  • Slowly build up your stamina over several weeks rather than try to tackle many steps on your first try, you may injure yourself or cause other issues.

Taking the stairs can be good for the heart. Climbing stairs can improve the amount of “good cholesterol (HDL)” in your blood. Higher amounts of good cholesterol may help you lower the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Who should not climb the stairs

Stair climbing may not be for everyone, you may need to check with your doctor whether you can safely climb the stairs. Additionally, there are certain warning signs to be aware of:

  • People with heart or lung diseases should speak with their doctor first before attempting this exercise.
  • People who are older or very obese or those who have not been exercising for a long time may not be physically prepared to start stair climbing immediately.
  • People with joint issues such as swelling, pain, stiffness or with arthritis may not be able to climb the stairs often.
  • If you notice chest pains or breathing difficulties when climbing, stop immediately and get rest. Speak with your doctor about this as soon as you can. 
  • If you get dizzy or fall unconscious after mild exercise, then stair climbing should be avoided as it may lead to injury. 

Conclusion

Stair climbing can be added to your daily routine easily wherever you work or live and can counteract a sedentary lifestyle. Be sure not to overstress your body and slowly ease into this form of rigorous physical activity. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor or fitness instructor about incorporating stair climbing into your weight loss plan. 

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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